The Saint Lucia Investment Forum ended on a high note. I believe this was a worthwhile event for any entrepreneur looking to explore new opportunities in unexploited markets. We have all heard of Brazil, Russia, India and China, the most sort after countries for multinational corporations around the global. While these markets promise the opportunities for exponential growth and profit, lets face not everyone will find their place there and there is nothing wrong in being a first mover and exploring unexploited options.
The Caribbean region which is often associated with luxury vacations and sand, sea and sun, presents so many hidden possibilities for companies with the foresight to see past the beaches. The Saint Lucia Investment Forum was truly an eye opener and an event that many investors would have found useful in providing key information about the government’s priority areas and real opportunities available. It was a chance to learn why organisations like the Irish owned telecommunications company Digicel is earning millions of dollars in profits and Courts owned by Regal Forest Holding Co. Ltd., operating as Unicomer Group (Grupo Unicomer), a large international retailing group based in El Salvador (not presented at the event)continues to gain big with several branches on this 234 sq m island.
Some of the key takeaways from the event were:
#1 Public-Private Sector Partnerships: There were presentations of a wide range of opportunities for public-private sector partnerships (PPPs) particularly in the area of infrastructure and sustainable development. Saint Lucia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Port Services & Transport Hon. Philip J. Pierre expressed his government’s commitment and readiness to partner with the private sector to facilitate development. Egbert L.J. Perry Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Integral Group LLC who is also Chairman of the leading secondary mortgage facility, Fannie Mae, U.S.A is one of the many international investors taking advantage of infrastructural and healthcare projects on this island.
#2 Opportunities in the Sustainable Energy Sector
The “Creating Climate Wealth Summit” hosted by Sir Richard Branson in the BVI earlier this year revealed that the Caribbean pays some of the highest energy bills in the world and have been promised a US$1 Billion green loan. Saint Lucia’s government pledged to retrofit hospitals, schools and construct solar projects with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 30%. Senator Dr. the Honorable James L. Fletcher encouraged investors to submit proposals for the government’s consideration and potential partnership in achieving this goal.
#3 Tax Benefits
Many investors who already owned businesses successfully operating in Saint Lucia with export markets across the globe, discussed advantages of the tax holiday which ranges from 5- 30 years with the opportunity for renewal. Saint Lucia also offers unrestricted repatriation of profits which is a huge attraction to foreign investors.
All in all, the event really gave insight into the numerous opportunities that exist outside the typical resort projects. Canadian boat builders have set up shop, niche manufacturers like Baron Foods claim increasing profits from year one with an export portfolio of 55%. The outlook was encouraging and only requires an investor to think outside the box, as Saint Lucia is a key gateway to the seven (7) OECS islands. I will leave no impression that it will be a bed of rose and there are challenges that one will face in entering this market (especially in the initial stages of starting up), but once you are able to conduct the necessary due diligence and navigate those challenges successfully, the benefits can be rewarding. Saint Lucia is not in the international media as the “IT” market but the opportunities exist and we all know that there are huge advantages to being a first mover.
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